Barking Man and Other Stories

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

BARKING MAN is a collection of work previously published in ATLANTIC, THE NORTHWEST REVIEW, HARPER’S, and other serious venues for modern fiction. Although two themes persist throughout this volume--a preoccupation with characters who exist on the ill-defined edges of society, and a ceaseless searching for “sense” in “senseless acts of violence"--the stories in BARKING MAN show a remarkable variety.

The protagonists include the “barking man” of the title, as well as a Southern dog trainer, an old lady sculptor and arsonist, an American con-artist on the French Riviera, a recovering addict, a small-town lawyer, and an Oriental mouse who is a high priest of

THE BOOK OF CHANGES. Most of these stories explore, in one way or another, the motivations for seemingly inexplicable, and often violent, behavior. What are the pressures, for example, on the pleasant young woman in “Customs of the Country” which lead her to assault her neighbor? How does the eccentric lady sculptor in “Dragon’s Seed” become an avenging angel for a missing child? Why can’t the prosecuting attorney in “Witness” protect a wife and her children from her vengeful husband? What motivates the protagonist of “Barking Man” to bite his sister-in-law’s hairdresser? Why does the drifter in “Move on Up” kill an unfamiliar drug addict who is standing in “his place?” Why does one mouse in “Holding Together” brutally attack another in its cage? It is answers to questions like these which fascinate Bell, and which ensure a large readership for this varied and well-written collection.